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The success of online shopping, coupled with the recent impact of COVID, is putting pressure on Flemish retail and the retail sector. This has direct consequences for store owners, who must reorganize themselves as pickup points for online shoppers or even close their stores. The general expectation is that online shopping will continue to grow, and new online technologies such as the Metaverse and Web3 will further strengthen this trend. Within the Flemish context, this poses a significant threat.

The challenge is to translate these trends in digital transformation into concrete commercial opportunities. The goal is to identify possible technological and business model innovations with the Metaverse and Web3, determine which ones are already viable, and explore how they can be widely implemented. We can leverage Howest's multi-year expertise in IT technologies (cybersecurity, machine learning, internet-of-things, virtual reality, blockchain, gaming, etc.), digital transformation, and a broad network of SME partners for experiments and implementation.